Commanding Courage

Have you ever tried to command someone to not be afraid? I spent my weekend doing just that with my 8 year old daughter. Gentle nudges to give up being afraid grew into frustrated promises of consequences if she continued to refuse to set her fear aside. Without getting into the details, I’ll shorten the story by saying her health depends on her doing something that scares her. In my mind, getting her over her fear was necessary for her well-being, so I pushed. Early patience evaporated for both of us with each refusal to let the other win. Neither one was willing to budge.

After a timeout for sanity’s sake, my daughter asked me what scares me. I didn’t even need a moment to think. My fear of flying and the tortured thoughts I endure every time I prepare to step on an airplane rolled off my tongue. She’s flown with me and never knew I dreaded the experience. She asked if that was the only thing. I wish. I went on to share my fears relating to an autoimmune disease I have and the side effects of the drugs I need to take to stop my body from attacking itself. She knows there are days mommy doesn’t feel well and sees me swallowing pills all of the time. Honesty seemed fitting.

As I shared my fears with my daughter, it hit me that no one can command me to let go of them. If anyone has that much power over my brain, it’s me, and I haven’t been able to pull it off. Leave it to my scared child to teach me I was attempting to solve the problem from the wrong direction. I was determined to get her over her fear when the best I could offer her was a path to get her through her fear. Who was I to say what she should and shouldn’t fear? Who are any of us to command another to not be afraid?

Letting my daughter have ownership over deciding what scares her allowed us to find a solution. Instead of arguing over whether or not she needed to be afraid, we were able to dedicate our mental resources to finding a way to achieve the goal with fear in the mix. When we hit our goal, the celebration was sweeter because we didn’t minimize the strength it took to get there.

Think about the people in your life who are afraid of things you view to be insignificant. Consider your own fears and how you push through them. Can you find a way to command courage in those you love versus commanding them to not be afraid?

Think about the fears you have that are stopping you from hitting personal or professional goals. Consider that those around you who are telling you not to be afraid likely have other fears they’ve pushed through. Can you replace arguments over what should and shouldn’t be scary with productive conversations that acknowledge fear and invite solutions to lessen its influence?

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Lisa joined the Michigan State University Alumni Association as Director of Alumni Career & Business Services on May 1, 2012. Her primary focus is to develop effective networking and resource channels for experienced alumni interested in professional development and job search strategy assistance. Additionally, Lisa works directly with corporate, education, foundation and government partners seeking to attract qualified talent, retain and develop good employees, and establish collaborative relationships in line with their established goals and objectives.

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